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Thursday, August 27, 2020

[Review] Charlie Kaufman’s ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ is a Genre-Defying Mind-Bender

Charlie Kaufman is a celebrated filmmaker who has built a reputation for using surreal and metaphysical frameworks to explore very human themes of mortality, identity, and the meaning of life. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meditated on heartbreak through a sojourn of memories in the process of being erased. Lack of fulfillment became a core theme in the trippy Being John Malkovich. All of which to say that it’s easy to see what drew him to author Iain Reid’s bestselling debut novel, a dark, heady story steeped in psychological horror. Kaufman takes the bones of the book and rebuilds the tale into something uniquely his, resulting in a mind-bending awards season contender that’s scrubbed away much of the atmospheric horror from the source material.

Jessie Buckley (Beast) stars as a Young Woman embarking on a road trip with her new boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), to his family farm. She’s to meet his parents for the first time, even though she’s been heavily considering ending their relationship. Once there, a snowstorm traps them in place, and an awkward first meeting is rendered downright bizarre thanks to strange behavior from Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis). As Jake grows more frustrated and time seems to lose its meaning, the young woman begins to question everything around her.

Written and directed by Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a slow, unraveling narrative clocking in at just over two hours long. It’s the definitive slow burn, a quiet mood piece that reflects upon the fragility of life, loneliness, and the need for connection. How that plays out is less linear and more mind-bending, and the answers don’t come easy. Jake’s family farmhouse makes for an eerie setting, and Collette has more than proved by this point she has the chops to unsettle in genre fare. But those looking for this particular story to crescendo into explosive terror will be disappointed; this isn’t that type of movie.

Everything is told through the Young Woman’s perspective; she’s the audience proxy and the key to deciphering this mind-bending feature. Her inner dialogue ponders the meaning of the strange events that transpire and helps to flesh out Jake’s character. This isn’t entirely her story, really, but something more significant. Something truly profound. Meaning this is a film wholly crafted around metaphor. Kaufman lays out visual clues to decode its meaning, many buried within the psychological horror elements. At a certain point, Kaufman leaves behind all the genre mechanics in favor of something far more poignant to drive the point home. In true Kaufman style, he’s trying to push you into feeling something specific. That tends to require a lot of patience.

There’s a high probability that the lengthy runtime and the abstract approach in I’m Thinking of Ending Things will prove divisive. Perhaps more so for fans of Reid’s chilling novel, though the melancholy truth remains the same in this adaptation. For those on Kaufman’s wavelength, his latest will likely wreck you. It’s triumphant in casting a spell of heartbreak and longing. It bides its sweet time in showing its hand, though it is not even then easily accessible. While it’s easy to classify Reid’s novel as a psychological horror, Kaufman only incorporates some of that in this genre-bender. That makes it tough to recommend from a horror standpoint, but in terms of pure filmmaking and craft, I’d be willing to bet this film earns a push come awards season. The performances, especially from Plemons, are tremendous, grounding the high concept mood piece. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things releases on Netflix on September 4, 2020.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3629205/review-netflixs-im-thinking-of-ending-things-genre-defying-mind-bender-embargo-lifts-8-27-8am-cst/

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